I had a pretty interesting conversation a few days ago with a gentleman who played almost every adventure game that was ever released out. Unlike my slightly raging attitude against the decline of this once extremely cerebral genre, the gentleman I’m talking about was very relaxed, almost cheery, and confessed that on a personal level he doesn’t mind this casual tendency, akin to the summer wine.
I must admit that I was a bit revolted at first – I’d met this man in a period in which I couldn’t build an eloquent argument, present my perspective aggressively or rage against his views. Well, the perspective he built sounded something like this: „Back in college and the first half of my marriage, I had plenty of time to figure out the wacky mysteries in Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island, as well as a boyish predilection towards perseverance, not giving up after two hours wasted in the same room, pulling every knob and screw that qualified as a hotspot, just to find a crack to crawl through.
I can’t do that anymore – I can no longer afford to cram up 3-4 complicated adventures in the back of my hard drive and devour them all one at a time, figuring that if I finished one a week, I’d still have plenty of stories to fill up my schedule in the foreseeable future. So yeah, I’m pretty happy knowing that there are fewer adventure games which are largely easier.”
„Alright, fine”, I said, „but do you think they’re just as good? I mean, two hours spent in Beneath a Steel Sky are better invested than the same timeframe thrown away on Still Life 2.” Looking at me with great indulgence and understanding, my father burst into a pretty embarrassing chuckle and admitted that while no, they aren’t as good, when you’re living in an era that has top scenarios and large amounts of money poured into a genre you’ll see way better results than in a period in which the respective genre is casually resurrected by nostalgics and lunatics rather than the center of power and financing of said era.”
„Besides, look at you” he added. „You’ve been standing in front of the screen for three hours laughing like an idiot as this badly-drawn blond guy gets into every trouble in the Caribbean.”
I blushed. Monkey Island was back.
A pirate I was meant to be,
Trim the sail and roam the sea…
Being a pirate is no small thing. First of all, it means being free, unchained from the fixed norms of casual reality, communities and an objective standard tying you to the curse of landlubbing. Guybrush Threepwood, the series’ protagonist, knows this and despite his typical delicate gestures and frailty, finds the craziest solutions to some of the weirdest obstacles ever placed in front of a pirate, with an ingenuity which only a sea dog could muster.
The franchise has a series of very clear and hard to imitate characteristics, and therefore I have to admit that I didn’t believe in Telltale’s ability of recreating one of the best adventure games ever spawned in video game history. But considering that a significant part of the people who contributed to Tales of Monkey Island are the same designers who left their thumbprints on the entire series (from Dave Grossman, lead designer, to Dominic Armato, the voice behind Guybrush), I can joyfully admit that the spirit of Monkey Island has been left intact, the jokes are in the same tone and the puzzles are more than just copycat renditions – every now and again they’re even brilliant.
The story starts more or less like any other Monkey Island game from the second to the fourth: Guybrush tries to save Elaine Threepwood (nee Marley) from the miserable claws of the evil captain LeChuck, who kidnapped her to woo her heart and convince her that joining him for eternity would be a good idea. From here on you’ll face an epidemic between pirates, a demented doctor and the eternal issue of a twisted jungle path.
Ahoy, me hearties! But whar teh graphics?
The main and perhaps only complaint I have to address would be the graphics: although there seems to be nothing wrong with the modeling, the textures are often bitter on the eyes and I cried out in disappointment more than once, to the horror of the people walking under my window.
There’s plenty of potential – as I said, the models are well-made, but I think that cel-shaded graphics would have looked better. It’s really unaesthetic to see cute little hand-drawn clouds in the background, in the series’ spirit, while the foreground is infected by minimalistic 3D models, and I do mean that in a bad sense.
A minor, but present problem is the recycling of certain characters: in a genre in which you don’t have a horde of NPCs to begin with, where they should each have their own individual personality, it’s pretty darn upsetting to see the same potato head in two different scenes.
The transitions and the interface, however, are very nice: every time you access the main menu, it will trigger a jungle flythrough animation, the inventory is always just a click away and the two or three timed puzzles will not be hindered by any technical complication, like pompous access to any object or obtuse solutions to simple problems.
What’s more invigorating is that the logic is well applied, with no monotonous repetition or boring routines; just subtle remarks on various objects spread on the island you’re held on and clever remarks on the NPC’s part.
As to who these characters are, both the new as well as the old ones have fitting personalities to the universe they belong to and none seem to have been thrown in randomly or placed just for the sake of filling up a void. The result is the awaking of a long-slumbering nostalgia in me and for that I can only thank the producers – you can easily tell that much passion and dedication were invested in this game, aside from the mandatory time and money.
The voices, music and sounds are built on the Monkey Island formula as well – no voices came across as annoying, Guybrush, Elaine, LeChuck are all easily recognizable to the fans and the beloved theme song also makes an appearance. Still, a new ingredient has yet to appear – I’d like some innovative composition, in the same genre and atmosphere as the already-existing ones.